The last solo exhibition of my father’s work while he was alive was held at BMG Art in 1996. In the previous several years I had prepared three other exhibitions for him, but at that time I was feeling unwell and it was not until 1997 that I realized it was serious, just after I had undertaken to complete a doctoral thesis under scholarship for the SA School of Art.
During this stressful period Wlad died, aged 81, in early October 1999. Under the circumstances I was unable to consider mounting an exhibition to celebrate his life, but on seeing the refurbishment of the Royal South Australian Society of Arts Gallery, and the tribute exhibitions for Jacqueline Hick and Mervyn Smith, both contemporaries of my father, it seemed a suitable situation to mount a survey of his work from the 1990s.
There was an enormous amount of material from which to select. A number of you will know of Wlad’s life in his inner city flat: he was irrepressible, and no matter how poverty-stricken, he still found ways to draw and paint. He had painted many works on good surfaces of various kinds, and some of these were very good rag papers. These formed the basis of the exhibition I prepared for 2005 on his last decade’s work.
I think it is important to think about the physical conditions under which Wlad worked then. He had no studio, his paints were set up in his tiny kitchen. He had little natural light as his flat was extremely dingy. In addition, he had a succession of operations on his eyes, a cataract in each eye was dealt with consecutively through the tardy public system. There were no doubt other problems about which he did not discuss, for although he was robust he was old and damaged.
All he wanted to do was paint (and write, for that matter), so family and friends fed him materials and hoped for the best. For example, I noticed among the work from his flat a number of charcoal drawings on special paper I purchased for him for oil painting. He did not really notice the technical details, he just poured it out on whatever surface was available. He was compelled to express himself artistically all the time.
His first exhibitions of the early 1950s at the Society of Arts had crowds queuing out onto Kintore Avenue waiting to get in. Back then his explosion of colour, the freedom of his expression and range of ideas, the uninhibited passion and exuberance of his painting caused an utter sensation and controversy in a sedate and somewhat sheltered little city. Back then he brought the world to Adelaide through his palette, theatrical inclinations and vibrant soirees and was a star on the national art scene.
The 100th anniversary exhibition, at Murray Bridge Regional Gallery from 4 May to 10 June 2018, gives the public a glimpse of how Wlad lit up the art world in Adelaide and beyond in the generation after World War Two.
Adam Dutkiewicz, Curator
Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz; A Partisan for Art
This site is dedicated to the creative work of the late Polish-Australian artist Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz (1918-1999). It shows a selection of paintings, works on paper, sculptures and murals, as well as material from plays he produced in Germany after World War Two and in Australia 1959-62.
Wlad was trained in Poland and Paris, was a partisan in World War Two, and fled to freedom ahead of the advancing Red Army in 1945. He spent four years in a Displaced Persons’ camp in Hohenfels, Bavaria, before migrating to Australia in 1949. He settled in Adelaide in 1950 and lived there until his death.
Photograph of Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz by Peter Medlen, 1962.
Uncredited photographs of paintings are by Graeme Hastwell.